Hemp dogbane, American hemp, amyroot, bitter-root, Bowman's root, Canadian hemp, choctaw root, dropsy weed, glabrous hemp, Indian hemp, Indian physic, milkweed, rheumatism weed, silkweed, wild cotton.
This perennial is generally 3 to 6 feet in height, and is unbranched except near the top. It has large elliptical, opposite leaves with short stalks. It produces whitish-green flowers borne on terminal clusters, and a milky juice. The pods are double, 4 to 6 inches long, and slender. The seeds are tufted.
May to July.
United States & Canada
Dry waste places and forest borders.
Roots and rhizomes in late fall.
This plant is a cardiotonic drug that is extremely poisonous. It has been used as a diuretic, diaphoretic, expectorant, and emetic. Because of its use by American Indians in treating dropsy, it has been called dropsy weed. Indians also used the tough fibrous bark to make fishing nets, and some western Indians chewed dried bits of the latex. The plant exhibits cytotoxicity but no antitumor activity.
Native Americans used the stalk for fiber in the same way Europeans used their hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Indian Hemp is superior, however, because it is stronger and lasts longer. This herb is poisonous.